Ross was tired and frustrated. He’d spent six months battling Zoom fatigue, going to interview after interview, always hopeful and always with the same result: “Thanks, but you’re not the right fit for us. We wish you the best of luck in your search.”
Now he applied for a digital marketing gig at one of the largest and most well-known technology companies in the world. But he was tired of doing what he called “the dance.” As well as being a brilliant SEO guy and programmer, Ross is flamboyant and outspoken – a world traveler, a musician and a connoisseur of weed in his civilian life. But he had scaled back his personality and style in all of his previous interviews, hoping not to offend anyone. His results? Nada.
fuck it all, he thought as he got ready for his interview. He was done playing by the rules. What did he have to lose? Instead of a suit, he threw on his finest Hawaiian shirt and set his Zoom background with Lego sculptures. In the interview he talked about his travels and his guitar playing. He and the interviewer began to vibrate. They shared a passion for anime. The interviewer defined the culture and what kind of teammates are successful there. The result? Ross got the job.
The rules have changed
That was in 2019, when employers like this still had the upper hand. Now, after the big resignation, companies have millions of jobs to fill and are desperate for talent. That puts rare breeds like you in the driver’s seat. You don’t have to stick to the dusty, shy, conservative interview rules of the past. Thanks to remote work, side hustles, and generous voice checks, employers need you a lot more than they need them.
This is your moment to break the rules and blast the interview for your dream gig by being the bold, bold, unabashed original that you are. Below are some musty interview must-dos from the eight-track era, along with the rare breed rules that will give you an unbeatable edge in today’s post-apocalyptic job market.
Old rule: They want every job.
Rare Breeds Rule: you want them To the right work. You are there to find out if this company is right for you she.
The Great Resignation happened because millions of people suddenly found out that a paycheck wasn’t enough. They wanted flexibility, family time, purpose, and a respectable pay and benefits package. As a rare breed, you want to land somewhere that fits your way of thinking, love, and expression. So turn the tables. The interview isn’t just an opportunity for the company to learn more about you; It’s your chance to get a glimpse into the heart and soul of the company. Ask tough questions, don’t settle for patent answers. If the gig or the culture doesn’t suit you, don’t rationalize. Keep searching.
A few questions about this:
“How will this role challenge me?”
“How long was the previous person in the role?”
“Can you describe a typical day or week in this role?”
Old Rule: Dress for the job you want.
Rare Breeds Rule: Dress professionally but reflect your uniqueness fabulous.
There’s an old marketing adage that says, “You can’t get people to do business with you.” The same goes for hiring. We’re anti-conservative clothing because it doesn’t reflect a person’s authentic self, but rather their fear of standing out from the crowd. That’s not you. Let what you’re wearing to your interview—whether it’s a Cuban shirt, an Indian saree, or a vintage Hepburn LBD—tell your interviewer all about who you are, what’s important to you, and how much self-love you have and confidence you have. Stand out and be unforgettable.
Tip: Of course, some common sense is in order. If you show up for an interview in dirty or torn clothes and look like you just fell off the back of a garbage truck, you have more cards against you.
A few questions about this:
“What values are important to you as a company?”
“What are the best qualities of the employees who thrive here?”
“Is there a dress code? If yes, what are the expectations?
Old rule: answer every question, even the stupid ones.
Rare Breed Rule: Turn the tables and suggest a better question.
You’ve heard (or been asked) silly interview questions like “What’s your biggest weakness?” right? In the past, you probably felt obligated to answer them. Not today. You’re in the driver’s seat, so if you’re faced with a stupid question, try this gambit: “You know, I’ve been asked this question in interviews before, and I don’t think it’s very useful. May I suggest another one, can you ask me?” If the interviewer agrees, suggest a question that is more provocative or insightful, such as “If I were your boss and you thought one of my ideas was horrible, what would you do to me say that?”
Tip: be polite. Nobody wants their question to be idiotic, even if it is. When the mood of the room tells you to answer the question before proposing your own, turn on your inner diplomat.
A few questions about this:
“How do you value the position I am applying for?”
“What is the management style like here?”
“How will you measure my success in this role?”
Old rule: everything positive, nothing negative.
Rare breed rule: Know the company and show your insights.
Right now, savvy managers are looking for astute operators with minds of their own, not men and women. That means you can come to the table in your critic’s hat, show that you’ve researched and know about the company, and more importantly, show that you know the industry. Before the interview, dig deep into the business and learn everything you can and have critiques ready, especially about the department you are being interviewed for. A savvy executive or HR person won’t care if you’re all sweet and light-hearted when you come up with valid, concise opinions about what marketing or IT has done badly in 2020 and what they could do better.
Serve the tried and tested “shit sandwich”. Add praise and positivity, with a center of criticism and finger wagging, topped with a layer of “If you did it like this, I think your results would be 200 percent better.”
Tip: Don’t just berate the company; that’s not productive.
A few questions about it:
“How is criticism dealt with in the company?”
“What are the top 3 initiatives the company is currently tackling?”
“How do you recognize your employees for their contributions?”
Old rule: be safe, vanilla and harmless.
Rare Breeds Rule: Surprise your interlocutor and remain unforgettable.
If a position is desirable, even in a tight job market, a manager or recruiter can talk to hundreds of candidates before sifting the field down to a dozen finalists. As a Rare Breed, would you like to be matched with everyone who’s given boring answers, told lame jokes, or kissed ass? Of course not. Be yourself. Take a photo of a handwritten card and email it. Tell this story about your time in MMA or the time you were arrested at a Black Lives Matter protest. Wear a lime suit and make a rap video like Hunt Zreet did for an appearance on Sprite. Make sure you’re the one everyone remembers.
Tip: read the space, for goodness sake. It’s one thing to be edgy and weird when you fancy an appearance on Apple or Rockstar Games; it’s quite different when you’re in a chain of hospitals or the Catholic archdiocese. Calibrate your “memorability” accordingly.
A few questions about this:
“What was the boldest thing the company did in the past year?”
“When was the last time someone broke the rules? Were you fired for that?”
“Do you think there is a high level of psychological safety here?”
Old rule: be humble.
Rare Breeds Rule: swagger and Humility.
In the past, it was safer in a job interview to keep your head down, downplay your accomplishments, and not interact with anyone but your interviewer unless asked to do so. God forbid people think you’re bold. Guess what? Brave works as long as you are also friendly and charismatic. Greet everyone you meet with enthusiasm and respect, as if you’ve been waiting to meet all these years she. Radiate confidence and feel-good energy. A gentleman who spent decades as a manager at a major hotel brand told us that he would introduce applicants he was interviewing to assistants or other employees just to see how they treated these strangers they might never see again. Applicants who were charming and respectful usually got a second interview, while those who were dismissive . . . fire.
Real humility always works, so show something where it’s due. Be confident and strut your stuff because you’re awesome, but when you’re talking about why you work or who you work for, your conversation should only be about the team, the community, your family, and so on. Remember, at the end of the day we are all here to serve someone.
“How would you describe your culture?”
“What would surprise me most about working here?”
“What is the work rhythm like here? Fast pace? Is there high stress?”
Old Rule: You’ll be grateful to be hired.
Rare Breeds Rule: They’d be lucky to catch you.
Employers need people like you more than ever. So it’s important to show appreciation for the opportunity, but remember you’re a rare breed. You bring something valuable to the table. Any company should be lucky to have you, not the other way around. Wear it like this, proud of who you are, what you have done and what you can do.
Now get her.
Sunny Bonnell and Ashleigh Hansberger are founders of Motto and authors of Rare Breed: A Guide to Success for the Defiant, Dangerous, and Different.